Today I read an article from Yoga Journal about the four yoga poses that changed the author’s life. For me, yoga has changed my life. Period. Yoga, in itself, changed my life. And it continues to be a defining influence in my life.
But I enjoyed the article and the intention behind it. So I began to think of what poses have the biggest influence on me, which ones have provided the best teaching moments to me. Here are mine, in no order of importance:
Up dog (urdhva muhka svanasana) – This is a pose that I could go on about forever. One of my favorite things about up dog is that every time you do it, it can feel different. The factors that influence this movement are endless and I love that. Until recently, I wasn’t able to fluidly move from up dog to down dog. It always seemed that my arms were too far away and I’d have to jump forward a bit so I could delightfully sink into my heels in down dog. I asked one of my instructors a few weeks ago if there was something I was missing. She told me to move my hands back! I always placed my hands next to my chest in chaturanga; I hadn’t realized they should be lower, down my rib cage. Now I can do up dog correctly and lift myself off the mat and roll my toes to down dog. Every time I push up to up dog I’m reminded that I always have more to learn. That my life journey will always bring me wonderful opportunities to learn and grow!
Crow (bakasana) – Man what a challenge! Crow really pushes me (and my ego!). I was too afraid to REALLY try it in the studio. I was afraid I wasn’t strong enough, afraid to fall, afraid if I did fall I wouldn’t try it again. One night I asked my brother to sit on the floor in front of me as I attempted crow. Even though I knew he was there to catch me if I fell, I still was afraid. I tried and tried and kept stopping myself. He finally blurted out, “Seriously, I’ll catch you just do it already!” I closed my eyes and tried and fell. But he caught me! He said he would and he did. I still struggle with doing this at the studio, but when it comes up in a class I remember that night. That night reminds me to trust. To trust myself and trust others. To remember that when someone offers to support me, to trust that they will.
Shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana) – I still do this pose assisted although the last time I tried it, I think I could have done it without. But I’m not quite ready to let go of the bolster. I used to watch everyone else in class gracefully roll onto their shoulders and send their toes to the sky. I sometimes love watching other people do yoga! Someone handed me a bolster once and I then was able to do the same thing! The next time we did it in class, I still kind of sat there not wanting to go and get the bolster. Letting my ego get the best of me, I hid in child’s pose. I have always had a hard time asking for and accepting help. Yoga is one of the main influences in helping me change this. Shoulder stand reminds me that needing help and accepting help is ok. Sometimes letting someone (or something, as the case may be) hold you up is wonderful!
Pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana) – I.LOVE.PIGEON! I almost want a shirt that says that! HA! Pigeon provides so many necessary things to me. Pigeon is a gift. I am very tight through the hips, psoas and groin. I carry almost as much tension there as I do my shoulders. Pigeon helps open me like almost nothing else. It almost completely replaces my chiropractor. (Don’t tell him!) Recently, I had a lot of weird emotions coming up and I was in a yoga class and one of my favorite songs was playing. I was happy to hear it and then we went into pigeon. I sank down and let stillness settle in. Suddenly, there was a shift in my hip. It was a great release. Almost immediately I began to tear up. I had no idea why. I closed my eyes and let it flow through me and then slip away. Something left me that day that I was holding onto. I grip too much in my quads and glutes. But to properly do pigeon, you need to let go of those muscles. You need to relax. I often need to let go of a lot of things! Sometimes when I’m extraordinarily tight, I close my eyes while in pigeon and chant let go in my head. Eventually, I can sink down and enjoy the stretch!
What is the best part of this? I didn’t choose these poses, they chose me. They chose me to remind me that I am always changing, always evolving. They chose me to remind me that to let light and love into my life I need to be open and welcoming. They chose me to remind me that every time I step on the mat and everyday that I wake up, I’m learning. They chose me to remind me that yoga doesn’t just happen on the mat but off the mat too. That it is part of my life. Forever. They chose me to remind that just as yoga is a precious gift to me and the world, I am a precious gift to it and the world.
I hope that you can sit quietly for a moment today and reflect upon your own journey, on and off the mat. What poses challenge you? Which ones make your heart sing? Why are you thankful for the gift that is yoga?